Various Artists The Story of Trojan Records Review

Compilation. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

An incredibly diverse five-CD set celebrating the legendary British label.

Lloyd Bradley 2011

There was a time in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the UK top 40 was rarely without a couple of reggae singles – and, invariably, they were on Trojan. This five-CD box set affords the label appropriate veneration with a sumptuous package: a lavishly illustrated book telling the label’s history; reproductions of original publicity postcards; a Trojan window sticker; and, of course, 123 of their finest tunes.

Curated by Trojan expert Laurence Cane-Honeysett, the set is driven by the label’s narrative. While the hits – Liquidator, Return of Django, Red Red Wine and so on – are covered by disc one, three CDs go deeper to explore the themes Artists, Producers and Labels; and the final disc is devoted to Rarities.

The Artists disc is a virtual who’s who of Jamaican music, although the song choices aren’t always what might be expected. Dennis Brown’s Meet Me at the Corner and U Roy’s Black Heart are featured, alongside less-than-obvious cuts from Augustus Pablo, Gregory Isaacs and Lee Perry. The Producers set is equally star-studded, running through a roll call including Derrick Harriott, Bunny Lee, Harry J, Rupie Edwards, Phil Pratt, Byron Lee, Joe Gibbs and, naturally, Lee Perry again. UK producers are represented to: Joe Mansano, Lambert Briscoe and Webster Shrowder. The disc showcases tracks that, understandably, include a high proportion of instrumentals.

Because Trojan would so often give individual producers their own label, as the fourth CD runs through the myriad of imprints – Jackpot, Clandisc, High Note, Big Shot, Amalgamated etc – it naturally subdivides into producers, too. Not that this is a complaint about a tracklisting that includes Mash Up by The Mighty Diamonds, Rocking Chariot by Tommy McCook, Music Alone Shall Live by The Meditators, and Brett Dowe’s Freedom Train. The Rarities collection is a real treasure trove – not only of unexpected versions (Double Barrel without Dave Barker; Gladstone Anderson’s organ-led I Shot the Sheriff), but among the 22 previously unreleased tracks are jewels like Val Bennett’s Where Did the Russians Go, Al Berry’s I’m Not a King and Marcia Griffiths’ My Love.

Importantly, The Story of Trojan Records lays waste to the notion the label never understood Rasta, as there are plenty of proto-roots tracks here. And that is just part of it demonstrating what enormous diversity there was within this music at the time.

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